An Inside-out Approach to Achieving Goals
As a longtime student of time management, I’ve gained tremendous insight from reading books like Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and Jim Loehr’s The Power of Full Engagement, which advocates managing energy rather than time.
Admittedly, I needed everything these mentors taught me. I’m not naturally organized; I tend to run late, try to do too much in one day, and am obsessed with being fully used up when I die. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to develop rituals that enable me to live a well-balanced life, enjoying quiet time, exercise, and play in between periods of rigorous work.
And yet, sometimes emotional factors overwhelm me and I just don’t do what I know I should. Instead, I wear myself out, overeat, skip my workouts, and end up feeling depleted and discouraged. Can you relate?
Most of us seem to struggle with this; after all, there are more than 20 pages of books on time management on Amazon. There’s obviously more to it than knowing the right things to do!
This week, at the June session of the Townsend Leadership Program, a three-year program that brings together senior leaders monthly to focus on professional and personal growth, I was struck by Dr. Townsend’s unique, inside-out take on “managing ourselves” to achieve our goals. Rather than rehashing the importance of planning, reflection, and life balance, he asked leaders to examine their capacity for internal structure, primarily their ability to envision the future, set goals based on values, follow through by taking small but consistent steps, and influence and catalyze others to achieve organizational goals.
Most of us attribute these abilities to discipline, innate talent, and willpower. But if you’ve ever tried to lose weight or break a bad habit, you know willpower can fail and frustrate you. That’s where the internal work Dr. Townsend discussed comes in. Recognizing your unique shortcomings positions you to overcome the obstacles that hinder your success.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you set goals out of fear or as an extension of your most cherished values?
Are you afraid to make big commitments for fear of failing?
Do you struggle with trusting others to get things done?
Do you endlessly run through lists in your head and have a hard time relaxing?
Do you have a vision but find it difficult to plan how to make it happen?
Do you easily design plans but struggle with executing them?
Are you competent at setting and achieving your goals but don’t know how to motivate others?
Identifying your obstacles makes them easier to plan for, so you can stay focused when confronted by emotional factors. If, for example, you tend to judge yourself harshly, you can put a system in place to help you cope with criticism that triggers feelings of failure, like calling a friend you can vent to. Instead of being thrown off track when the criticism comes, you’re able to rely on your system, process your feelings, and move forward strategically.
Self-awareness really is curative. When you do the work to grow on the inside, it dramatically impacts your outside performance.
Elaine Morris has been helping leaders grow for more than 30 years. See some of her other services!